Goals from Keisuke Honda and Luiz Adriano ensured Sinisa Mihajlovic got off to a winning start as AC Milan head coach on Monday, securing a 2-0 Coppa Italia success over Perugia.
After a miserable 2014-15 that saw Milan finish 10th in Serie A and Filippo Inzaghi fired, Mihajlovic’s new-look side fizzed with energy at San Siro on their first competitive outing of the season.
Honda was at the heart of everything positive coming from the hosts as he netted the first and created the second for new signing Luiz Adriano inside 30 minutes.
More flowing football followed in the second half as Milan pushed for a third, but they were unable to breach the Perugia defence again – even after Davide Lanzafame had been sent off just after the hour.
Despite the lack of a third goal, Milan’s attacking play throughout Monday’s tie will have pleased their new boss, and he will now plot the downfall of Crotone in round four as they look to reach the last 16.
Mihajlovic named a strong starting line-up at San Siro with all four close-season signings handed competitive debuts, but it was Honda who made a quick impact on the contest.
The Japan international – who had seen an early shot saved – broke the deadlock after 10 minutes as he poked the ball past Antonio Rosati after benefitting from Luiz Adriano’s dummy to convert Giacomo Bonaventura’s low cross.
Despite some promising positions for Perugia, a second Milan goal seemed inevitable and it arrived just before the half-hour as Luiz Adriano fired low past Rosati, the Brazilian clinical in front of goal after superb interplay between Carlos Bacca and Honda.
Milan thought they had added a third before the break as Bacca fired into the Perugia net from 18 yards, but the Colombian was denied his first Milan goal by the assistant’s flag.
Rosati was quickly involved in the action at the start of the second half as Milan started brightly, Mattia De Sciglio cutting in from the right only to see his powerful effort pushed away.
Lanzafame went close to halving the deficit with a mazy dribble into the Milan penalty area, but soon after his shot flew wide the forward earned a second yellow card for a foul on Andrea Bertolacci.
With a man advantage, Milan tightened their grip on the tie with some impressive build-up play, but Bertolacci and Luca Antonelli were both denied as they looked to add a third goal.
Substitute Jeremy Menez displayed the attacking options Mihajlovic has at his disposal this season with a late cameo, but he was unable to cap his return from a back injury with a goal as the hosts settled for a two-goal winning margin.
Milan’s Serie A rivals Chievo did not fare so well, though, as Andrea Bovo’s 121st-minute strike earned newly promoted Serie B outfit Salernitana a 1-0 win in Verona.